On Monday, July 2, 2012, Le Monde published an article touting the benefits of physical exercise, saying that they were too often misunderstood.

So, it was somewhat ironic to read that Terra Nova’s founder Olivier Ferrand died at age 42, after jogging near his home in Velaux near Marseille on Saturday, June 30. He had suffered a heart attack.

RMC’s Jean-Jacques Bourdin briefly interviewed a cardiologist on Monday morning. He asked the doctor how such a thing can happen. The specialist replied that arterial plaque can become dislodged during a workout and result in a fatal obstruction later.  His advice was to adjust physical activity to one’s age group. ‘A middle-aged man cannot maintain the same regime that he did in his 20s. He runs serious health risks,’ adding that seemingly healthy, athletic men are dying more often of heart attacks.

SpouseMouse had two friends who died in similar circumstances. No doubt some of you have, too.

Is exercise, therefore, bad? No, it just needs to be done in moderation. It is no wonder that heart disease is called the ‘silent killer’; physically fit people are unaware they might have it.

Sadly, Ferrand’s mother was the one to find his body in the garden. How awful. My deepest sympathies to her, his widow Carole and their 12-year old daughter.

Ferrand had been recently elected as one of the MPs for Marseille. He was no doubt still involved with Terra Nova whilst campaigning for office. His deputy MP and mayor of Velaux Jean-Pierre Maggi — who looks to be succeeding him in Parliament — told Agence France Presse:

Was it cumulative fatigue? He was going at 100 km an hour, slept little, worked a lot. And he always had to run.

Ferrand enjoyed participating in marathons. He also played tennis and went skiing.

It will be interesting to see what becomes of Terra Nova now. I had written critically last year about the ideas coming out of it. Ferrand was a big supporter of the now-tarnished Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) and was the brains behind the Parti Socialiste (PS).  He came up with the PS campaign strategy of rejecting the traditional base of the French working class in favour of immigrants, women and gays.

This is what he told Le Point magazine a little over a year ago, a few days before DSK’s sex scandal broke in New York. (At that time, he would have planned to help with the strategy of DSK’s campaign. As it was, his plans helped the PS to win not only this Spring’s general election but the parliamentaries as well.) Emphases mine:

Le Point: Your [Terra Nova] report suggests that the Left must modify its electoral strategy for 2012 by no longer depending on the working and middle classes for support.  Is this a wind-up?

Olivier Ferrand: No! We’re basing it on factual studies in France and in nine other countries (Germany, the UK, The Netherlands, Sweden, Hungary, Australia, Canada, the US) … The electoral base has changed …  Under Mitterand, the working classes were united by values, they no longer are. The left’s electoral base — its heart — was the working class.  It no longer is.

Le Point: What happened?

Ferrand: … The Left evolved with the impact of May ’68 and progressively adopted open values on sexual mores, the family, immigration, national identity and diversityOn the other hand, the working class retreated and became insular, having been worked over by the [economic] crisis and the fear of [losing their position as a social class], which has sent the FN [Front National] into hysteria. But a new electoral base has emerged, linked to open cultural values, [those which are] positive, tolerant, about solidarity, optimism, a hopeful future and comprised of young people, poorer working class areas, minorities and women.  This is the France of tomorrow …

He also advanced the meme — in March 2011 — that the conservative UMP (Sarkozy’s party) would join forces with the FN. Although a couple of rogue UMP candidates did ally with the FN in June, a party alliance was never going to happen, thankfully — nor will it happen, for many reasons. However, the slur still appears endlessly in France’s dominant left-wing media. It would be interesting to know if Ferrand or Terra Nova came up with the suggestion.

Take the penultimate sentence in the last paragraph of the Le Point quote:

But a new electoral base has emerged, linked to open cultural values, [those which are] positive, tolerant, about solidarity, optimism, a hopeful future and comprised of young people, poorer working class areas, minorities and women.

Essentially: ‘our new electoral base is positive, tolerant, open-minded and hopeful. It is made up of young people and urbanites’.

During both campaigns this year, the PS — again, possibly Ferrand or Terra Nova — put forward the idea of a ‘moral vote’. Taking what Ferrand said about this new voter base, there appears to have been some emotional blackmail behind it. In other words: ‘if you vote morally, you will vote PS. However, if you vote UMP, then you are negative, intolerant, closed minded and cynical’.

Yes, Ferrand was extremely intelligent, highly gifted, a marvellous strategist and much more. However, it always seemed as if he strongly disliked the average French person. Nevertheless, his plans paid off handsomely for François Hollande and the PS.  Even La Creuse, the most French and rural of départements — as well as the poorest — voted overwhelmingly PS.

I would find it comforting if Terra Nova were now to lose its way; its tactics seem dishonest and smell of social engineering. However, not only are several Terra Nova people in Prime Minister Ayrault’s cabinet but the think tank employs 1,000 ‘experts’. So, it does not look as if its influence will diminish anytime soon.

Concluding on health, especially with the current overemphasis on sport and eradication of ‘bad’ habits, two of France Info‘s readers had this to say:

kibog: Stay with the cigarettes, you’ll die more slowly.

lainox: I was thinking about giving up cigarettes and taking up jogging; now I’m hesitant.

The fact of the matter is that we do not know how or when we will die. We can go the healthist route and be driven to excel in all that we do, which Ferrand’s educational path would have programmed him for, or we can take time out to chill out and indulge in a bit of what we fancy now and then.

Therefore, it is unclear whether secular pietism really does extend our lives.

There is no magic bullet lifestyle, even for the best and brightest.